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How Foundry is transforming health care for young people

Young person sitting on rock, hands crossed.

World Mental Health Day 2018 is October 10. This year’s focus is on mental health and young people, and Foundry, a service with roots at St. Paul’s Hospital, is particularly relevant.

Adolescence and young adulthood are filled both with exciting times – starting university, meeting new friends, gaining increased independence – and stressful times that could trigger mental illness if not identified and managed early, as the World Health Organization notes.

Young people can be at high risk for mental-health issues, as data shows. Statistics Canada figures indicate that almost ¾ of mental health problems begin in childhood or the teen years. And while one in five young people aged 15-24 report experiencing mental illness or substance use problems, fewer than a quarter receive appropriate services.

One in five young people aged 15-24 report experiencing mental illness or substance use problems.

The pioneers behind Foundry recognized this. The service that began in St. Paul’s Hospital in 2015 has become a ground-breaking network of care for young people across the province.

Foundry offers young people ages 12-24 health and wellness resources, services and supports across BC.

Foundry is a one-stop resource for those aged 12 to 24 to get care. It offers a network of stand-alone, welcoming centres designed with youth input, and online resources. It streamlines the process of getting help. In the past, youth have often been referred from service to specialized service, often with long wait lists. Or they end up in an Emergency Department to receive support.

Foundry centres offer walk-in hours. Clients don’t need referrals.  Every centre provides mental-health care, substance-use care, primary-care services, social services and peer support. In its integrated model, care providers work together to help each young person develop a plan for wellness. Foundry not only reaches young people at a crucial time in their lives, but also helps support those who are aging out of care or child services.

“Foundry is about transforming access to care and ensuring young people and their families get the help they need when they need it,” says Pamela Liversidge, Acting Executive Director, Foundry. “By offering welcoming one-stop shops with a variety of wellness services, we want to remove the stigma of seeking help and reach young people early on, before small problems become big ones.”

Foundry provides a safe space, non-judgmental care, information and resources, and works to reach young people early on, before small problems become big ones.

Foundry’s origins go back to 2007, when a group of St. Paul’s psychiatrists created a new way to give young people improved access to mental-health, substance-use and basic health care. They observed other challenges youth were dealing with like housing and joblessness and sexual identity issues and recognized the value of grouping services for these issues in one place. The result was the Inner City Youth (ICY) program on Granville Street in Vancouver.

Donors helped ICY expand in 2012 and round out its services to help young people build relationships and connections to community, peers and resources. In March 2015, the Granville Youth Health Centre (now called Foundry Vancouver-Granville) launched as Canada’s first integrated health/social-service centre for youth and young adults that could reach more people.

The support of the Government of BC, generous donors and St. Paul’s Foundation and St. Paul’s Hospital was vital. 

The next step was to address a gap in reaching young people with mild-to-moderate mental health challenges. Again, a focus on prevention and early intervention so problems wouldn’t become severe and spill into other parts of the young person’s life.

Prevention and early intervention are key for youth struggling with mental health challenges.

Foundry was born in 2015 with funding from the BC government, Graham Boeckh Foundation, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and donors to St. Paul’s Foundation. Providence Health Care hosts the Foundry central office – the team that leads the development of the network of centres and other provincial initiatives.

Since then, the network has expanded to 10 centres across BC in addition to the Granville centre, and has caught the eye of organizations outside the province.

Organizations like Alberta Health Services, Manitoba Health, Yukon Health and Social Services, and some in California (including Stanford University) have toured Foundry to learn more about it.

“It’s great to see growing interest in the integrated youth services model,” says Pamela Liversidge. “We’re already seeing the positive impact for youth and families in communities with a Foundry centre, and hope many more young people will benefit from this holistic approach.”

Better care means reaching out early and helping prevent mental health and substance use challenges in the beginning.

“Young people are our future,” she adds. “We owe it to them to provide better care and make it easier to get help when they need it. That means reaching them earlier to help prevent mental health, substance use or other challenges from negatively affecting their lives and holding them back from their full potential.”

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